The 15 rarest animals on the planet
Species around the planet are disappearing every day. Habitat loss, poaching, climate change and other factors are to blame, causing many animals to become extremely rare in the wild. From big cats to ancient turtles, these species are now rare in the wild.
These threatened animals are on the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, a comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of species. These are some of the rarest animals in the world, according to the IUCN Red List and the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Amur leopards, also known as Far Eastern leopards, live in the temperate forests of Russia and China. With less than 100 in the wild, it’s extremely rare to spot these elusive cats. Poaching, habitat loss from logging, and the illegal wildlife trade are driving the decline of Amur leopards, which are hunted for their fur.
With around 5,600 black rhinos left in the wild, these creatures are critically endangered. However, this is about double the number 20 years ago, thanks to conservation efforts across Africa. Wildlife crime, namely poaching and trafficking in rhino horns, continues to plague the species and threaten its recovery.
Borneo’s orangutan populations have declined by more than 50 percent over the past 60 years, and the species’ habitat has also been halved over the past two decades. Found only on the island of Borneo, only around 104,700 of these orangutans remain in the wild.
Cross River Gorilla
Found in the Congo Basin, this subspecies of the western gorilla lives in an area populated by people, which has resulted in habitat loss. Forests have been cleared for timber and to create fields for agriculture, resulting in a sharp decline in Cross River gorillas. There are now around 200 to 300 left.
Eastern lowland gorilla
The eastern lowland gorilla, also known as the Grauer’s gorilla, is the largest of the four gorilla subspecies. There were nearly 17,000 Eastern Lowland Gorillas in the wild in the 1990s, but WWF says the population has declined by more than half since then. Violence in the region made it difficult to monitor the population and resulted in further destruction of habitat.
Hawksbill turtles are found in all tropical oceans around the world, primarily in coral reefs. However, these animals are critically endangered and you are unlikely to spot them in the wild. Many are threatened by fishing gear and despite laws protecting hawksbill turtles, they continue to be hunted for their shells and meat.
There are only about 60 Java rhinos left in the world and they are only found in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia. Although they once lived in northeast India and Southeast Asia, poaching, disease and habitat destruction have decimated the population. According to WWF, the low genetic diversity and inbreeding could make the long-term survival of the species difficult.
Sometimes called the Asian unicorn, not much is known about the saola. These mammals are critically endangered and scientists have only documented them in the wild four times. These tiny forest cattle were first spotted in the early 1990s.
Found in Borneo and Sumatra, there are around 2,400 to 2,800 Sumatran elephants left in the wild. In 2012, the Sumatran elephant was listed as Critically Endangered because half of its population was lost within a generation, mainly due to habitat loss and conflict with humans.
The Sumatran Orangutan was once found on the island of Sumatra and further south to Java. Now, however, the species lives only in the north of the island, with a majority in the northern provinces of Sumatra and Aceh. The loss of habitat, due to forest fires or deforestation to make way for oil palm plantations, is mainly to blame.
Like the Java rhinos, the Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered with only about 80 in the wild. Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade have led to the decline of Java rhinos, which are hunted for their horns. The horns are often sold for use in traditional medicine.
Sunda tigers are recognizable by the thick black stripes on their orange coats. There are now less than 400 left in the wild and they are only found in patches of forest on the island of Sumatra. Deforestation and poaching have led to a severe decline in the number of Sunda tigers, despite increased conservation efforts.
The vaquita is the rarest known marine mammal in the world, with only a dozen in the wild. First discovered in 1958, vaquita are often caught in nets used by illegal fishing operations in marine protected areas in the Gulf of California in Mexico.
Western lowland gorilla
Western lowland gorillas are found in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea as well as in large areas in Gabon and Republic of Congo. Poaching and disease have led to a significant drop in numbers. Some scientists estimate that Ebola killed around a third of the wild gorilla population, mainly western lowland gorillas.
Yangtze flightless porpoise
Found only in the Yangtze River in Asia, only about 1,000 to 1,800 porpoises remain in the Yangtze. Overfishing is the main factor contributing to the dwindling food supply of wingless porpoises, but pollution and vessel movement are also factors. These parents of whales and dolphins are known for their cute smiles